If you like quilting stories, then I’ve got some good news: The Quiltfiction Podcast is up and running! We’re going to begin with Friendship Album, 1933, a work of historical fiction by me, Frances O’Roark Dowell. Friendship Album, 1933 is not available in bookstores, in case you’re wondering, although it might be one day. Right now the only way to experience the story is via this podcast–and I really hope you’ll tune in!
Let me give a you a brief introduction. The idea for Friendship Album, 1933 came to me after reading Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World Fair: The Sears National Quilt Contest and Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition by quilt historians Merikay Waldvogel and Barbara Brackman. I’ll write more about the Sears National Quilt Contest in a later post, but suffice to say that with its $1,000 grand prize (nearly $20,000 in today’s dollars), a lot of women were inspired to enter the competition.
Five such women make up Friendship Album’s circle of quilters:
Eula, whose family has been forced by hard times to leave the farm and move into town, where she doesn’t know a soul and is pretty sure she’ll never fit in…
Bess, a widow of one year, who shows up at the first meeting as a way of avoiding duty on her church’s altar guild and her neighbors’ constant condolences…
Dorothy, a woman trying hard to keep peace in her home and her sewing scissors away from the lively young grandchildren who’ve just moved in…
Then there’s the bee’s youngest member, Florence, living the life of a bored socialite after being jilted by her fiancé. Can starting her own quilt business turn her life around?
And, finally, Florence’s sister-in-law, Emmeline, who’s fresh out of material for her weekly quilting column and hopes to find inspiration in this odd collection of quilters.
When the group members hear about the Sears Quilt Competition, they all make plans to enter, although for different reasons, not all of them to do with the prize-money. In Friendship Album, 1933, we follow the characters in their own lives as well as when they gather together to sew.
Here’s a fun fact: I’m still working on the novel as the first episode drops on iTunes! This is a bit scary for me, since I’m essentially reading from a first draft and have to stay way ahead so that we don’t run out of episodes (so far so good–I’ve written close to 200 pages). But it also provides some opportunities. Maybe I’ll ask listeners for help with a street name or ideas for patterns. If a listener has feedback, she can leave it in the comments and I might end up incorporating her suggestions into a later draft.
I’m going to use this space not only to introduce new episodes and collect comments, but also to give you background on the story, share patterns and recipes, and talk a little bit about the writing process. I’d also be happy to answer questions, so feel free to ask!
Doing research has been one of the most enjoyable parts of writing Friendship Album, 1933. Not only is the 1930s a fascinating time in quilting, it’s also a wonderful period to kick around in if you’re interested in old cookbooks, graphic design, fashion, home decor, and the domestic arts. I’ve created a Friendship Album, 1933 Pinterest board, which I hope you’ll come visit (and send suggestions for!). You’ll find it on the Quiltfiction Pinterest page:
If you enjoy the first episode of Friendship Album, 1933, I hope you’ll not only subscribe via iTunes, but tell your friends about it and share the link on your social media platforms. I’ll be back next week with a new episode, so stay tuned!